No, we are not reviewing the cute, bold and loyal dog that is usually very wary of strangers. But the concept seems similar. Here, Akita is a security device that is wary of strangers and anyone with a malicious intent who may be eyeing the smart devices in your Internet of Things (IoT) home. All the devices that connect with the internet at some point, can be used by hackers to spy on you or take control of smart home functionality, for instance, or can be the target of botnets, AI powered malware and crypto hijacking.
But why do you need one? Chances are, your home as more smart devices, and by that we mean connected devices, than you probably noticed. A smart TV, media players connected to the TV, smart lights, smart appliances, smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, smart displays such as Amazon Echo Show and Google Nest Hub, smart cameras, a water purifier or air purifier that connects with the internet and so on. The thing is, none of these smart devices have any security built in. That is where Akita steps in and adds a layer that analyses the data packets being to and from these smart devices on your network—and immediately raises an alarm if something is amiss. It is priced at Rs 9,000 and one Akita is what you need for an entire home Wi-Fi network.
It looks very complicated. Is it?
It doesn’t take long to set up if things go well, but you need to be careful to be doing things right during this process. You need to keep some basics in mind when you do set up Akita. The hexagonal design does come across as rather attractive and cool. First, it needs to be connected directly to the modem that is hooked up to the internet line coming into your home. Use one of the LAN ports on the router (depending on your router, there will be between one to four ports) to connect to the Akita—and plug the ethernet cable into the yellow LAN port on the Akita. This is when you power on the Akita and wait for up to 10 minutes for the server connection to be established with the device. You can, in the meantime, download the Akita app on your iPhone or Android phone (free downloads on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store) and begin the processing of connecting this with your Wi-Fi network.
You have to scan the QR code on the bottom of your Akita device to set it up. The app will guide you through the process. The one limitation with Akita is that is it only connects with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks. That should not be a problem with most recent Wi-Fi routers that allow you to set up an SSID (basically your network name) and it has both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands enabled. If your router is slightly older or one of the more affordable ones—there should be the option to enable 2.4GHz band. The app will tell you what all networks you can connect to.
Once everything is set up and the server connection is established—you’ll get the blue light on the notification LED on the Akita—the app will list out all the smart devices on your network. Mind you, while Akita itself connects to a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network, it can and will detect smart devices connected on 5GHz networks as well, as long as the network name or the SSID is the same. Be it Amazon Echo speakers, smart TVs, smart lights, the lot. It is not a very well designed or slick app, but you find your way around soon enough. However, leave the Akita hard-wired to your router anyway for the server connection to remain established and stable.
What does it do?
Akita monitors traffic on each of these devices. If it notices something that is out of the ordinary, which is usually when someone is attempting to do mischief with your smart devices such as smart cameras or smart thermostat, Akita will detect the incoming packets of traffic on the network for intrusion attempts and block access before notifying you. During this time Akita also sends the info from these packets back to its server for analyzing, to verify if it’s a genuine threat or not.
But I have a Mesh router? Will it work?
Yes, Akita works with traditional single unit routers as well as the newer mesh Wi-Fi systems for larger homes. It worked very well for me with the single unit router, the trusty old Netgear Nighthawk X6 and also the uber-cool Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD mesh system. Both these routers have different styles of controls for enabling and disabling 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, and it worked seamlessly with both as long as the 2.4GHz network was available for it to scan and connect to.
So, is Akita a firewall?
Well, yes and no. It is a firewall in the sense that it will detect if something is amiss with your IoT gadgets. But that is where it does more—it proactively takes action to analyze and respond to threats. It is also not a firewall in the sense that it isn’t a piece of software or an app that you can manually control or install someplace.
Will this change the way I connect to the internet?
Akita runs a Qualcomm QCA9531 processor clocking at 650MHz, with 64MB RAM and a bunch of security software that runs on the device and from the cloud—Akita network scanner and monitor, Akita cloud system and more. At no point does Akita have any bearing or impact on your internet speed, or the connectivity of your laptop, PC, phones etc. to your home Wi-Fi network.
Is the protection free forever?
Yes. You have the option to sign up for one of the premium subscription options, but even if you don’t, the Akita service and the basic security prowess is available to you. The free plan will give you complete monitoring of all malware, botnets, crypto hijacking and hacking attempts.
There is the Advanced Protection Plan for $3.99 per month that enables access to human assistance in case you need to fix something in your IoT home that has been targeted. And then there is the one-time service that costs $24.95 as a one-time subscription fee that will give you the option of letting the Akita experts fix anything that is flagged or broken in your smart home security protocols.
The Last Word: Your smart home definitely needs this
It was incredible to note that after setting up the Akita for the review process and testing it thoroughly, I had powered it down because not many smart devices were active at the time. The Akita support team sent me multiple emails to remind me that my Akita seems to be offline and in case I’m not able to fix it, I should connect with them for help. That is the level of attention to detail which simply adds to the trust factor about a security device designed to keep your smart gadgets safe from those with malicious intent. As a device and as a concept, Akita is quite interesting. It may sound like a complex addition to your smart home ecosystem, but it isn’t. in fact, once this is up and running, it needs absolutely no attention—till it may notify you about something. It is the sort of insurance that I would recommend you get for your smart gadgets. The peace of mind knowing someone is monitoring your smart cameras, smart lights and smart speakers, is priceless.